Gov. Abbott will not enforce vaccine mandate for Texas National Guard

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Juan Salas helps to organize bread at the Food Bank of...
Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Juan Salas helps to organize bread at the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley in Pharr, Texas, April 14, 2020. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)(KXII)
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 1:33 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday, saying the State will not enforce COVID-19 vaccination mandates against Texas National Guardsmen.

Secretaries of all national Military Departments were directed in August to begin full vaccination of all Armed Forces members on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard.

Abbott cited his series of Executive Orders issued earlier this year, prohibiting entities in Texas from compelling COVID-19 vaccination.

“As Governor of Texas, I am the commander-in-chief of this State’s militia. In that capacity, on October 4, 2021, I ordered the Adjutant General of Texas to comply with my Executive Order GA-39,” Abbott wrote. “That includes the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard.”

In a memorandum from the Department of Defense issued November 30, members of the National Guard were ordered to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the deadlines established by the Army or Air Force, unless otherwise exempted, to participate in drills, training or other duty. The order states: “No Department of Defense funding may be allocated for payment of duties performed,” for members of the National Guard who do not comply with Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Governor Abbott called the threat to end DoD funding for unvaccinated Guard members “unconscionable,” and “in tension with legal decisions” regarding vaccine mandates ordered by President Biden, referencing the Texas Attorney General’s recent lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over mandates for federally funded school programs. This lawsuit has not been ruled on by a court.

Military Services Departments are now releasing information on participation and enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, with Army officials reporting as of Thursday, December 16, 97.9% of their active duty force had gotten at least one dose, as of the deadline for active duty troops on Wednesday; second only to the Navy, with more than 98%.

Air Force has reported a vaccination rate at 97.5% and the Marine Corps is at 95%. Meanwhile the Air Force reported Wednesday, 27 people have been discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, officials believe these are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots.

Abbott says if the federal government keeps threatening to defund the Texas National Guard, he will deploy every legal tool available to me as Governor.”

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